By Justin Bumann
Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Online reviews from customers are important for local businesses. We live in a time that is practically run on online reviews, from Google to Yelp to Amazon to nearly every social media platform. In fact, a whopping 90 percent of customers say that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. So, it makes sense that your ability to manage and get reviews can make your business.
Reviews give a business online credibility. If customers have reported a great experience shopping or working with a local business, chances are other customers can expect similar results.
The problem that most local businesses experience is that many customers simply fail to leave public reviews. Some customers don’t know where to go to leave a review and others don’t know that it’s important to you. The good news is that with a little guidance and conversation, a customer will usually be happy to leave a positive review.
Why Should Local Businesses Manage Customer Reviews?
It’s important to understand why you should care about them. As a business owner, your days are filled with the essential day-to-day tasks of running your business! I know many local business owners who would rather focus on improving their business by focusing on providing quality service then managing their online reviews… but consider some of these statistics:
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses
- 50% of consumers visit local businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews
- 13% contact a business after reading positive reviews
- Positive reviews make 68% of consumers more likely to use local businesses
*Source BrightLocal – Consumer Review Survey 2018
Why Do Customers Leave Reviews?
It might surprise you to find out that 59 percent of consumers have written reviews for local businesses with 27 percent saying they were open-minded to leaving reviews. Because so many customers are interested in reading reviews themselves, they feel the desire to give back and choose to leave reviews to help other consumers. If customers are satisfied with a service or experience, that is added motivation to leave a positive review. Many customers also enjoy engaging with local businesses and taking part in community conversation. I personally love doing this. It allows me to assist the local business, with positive feedback and builds the local business community.
Just the other day, I left a five star Google review for my favorite restaurant. The owner is often times at the door, shakes your hand as you enter and the food is amazing!
You’ll be Surprised by this Approach, Simply Ask!
The best way to start gaining more online reviews is to simply ask your customers to leave them. It seems like a no-brainer, but many businesses fail to take this first simple step. As a local business owner, you already have an advantage – it’s likely that you and your staff interact directly with customers and may even have an existing relationship with them. You might feel funny asking them to leave a review at first but after a few positive experiences, hopefully you’ll get used to it.
A lot of customers don’t realize how important reviews are to your business or aren’t sure where to go to post them. When you ask your customers to leave a review, make sure you explain why it matters. Then instruct them where they can leave reviews if they’d like to. It might be helpful to have cards printed out with your various social media handles and business info so that customers can easily find them at home.
Recently, I noticed a local pizza shop in West Fargo doing an awesome job of this. On the side of their pizza box, in a large type font it read; “Leave us a Review” with a graphic representing five stars next to it! This business is doing it right, they have 223 reviews within Google My Business.
Use Emails or Text to Ask for Reviews
Another helpful tactic is to ask for emails addresses and phone numbers upon checkout and permission to contact your customers. That way you can send customers a separate follow-up email or text message to interact with them. The message can include a thank you for visiting or purchasing from your business and give them a chance to provide feedback.
It’s best to make these follow up communications primarily about the customer and their needs. You want to engage them and begin to build a relationship. Keep the email or text simple while asking them to leave you a review if they were happy with their experience. Include links to Facebook, Google Business Profiles and other sites where you’d like to increase your amount of reviews.
Use your Social Media Following
If you’re still looking for more reviews after reaching out directly to your customers, turn to your social media audience. A simple request like “Have you been to our store lately? Please leave a review or get in touch to share your experience!” is sometimes all you need. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all great places to post a message like this. You might be pleasantly surprised by how many people respond by leaving a review.
It’s Going to Happen – Dealing with a Negative Review
The flipside of asking people to provide online reviews is the possibility of receiving negative feedback. In most cases, you can probably expect negative reviews because you simply can’t please everyone. Look at them as a great opportunity to improve.
First, it’s important to pay attention to what the customer is saying. Try not to get frustrated or let your feelings get in the way. Is there anything within the negative review accurate or inaccurate to your business? The review might highlight some issues that you need to address within your service or product. If you don’t acknowledge it right away, you could end up with many more negative reviews.
Next, you want to make sure to engage with the person who left the negative review letting them know you have seen their comments and are doing something about it. Make sure to never argue with them, even if you feel they’re incorrect. Always take the high road and strive for perfectionism. And it’s a good idea to leave a public comment in response to the negative reviews as opposed to sending a private response. That way other reviewers can see that you are attentive and sensitive to your customers’ feedback.
Lastly, you need to make sure that your responses to negative reviews are timely. Customers expect responses very quickly, especially when it comes to customer service. You need to monitor your online reviews regularly to make sure you can respond promptly. In order to catch negative reviews on review websites or social media platforms, it’s helpful to set up a Google Alert based on your business. This allows you to be notified immediately whenever someone mentions your business.
Even a quick note to an unsatisfied customer can let them and others know that you care about their feedback and are working to improve. For example:
Let’s say a customer complains about the wait time at your store.
Poor Response: Sorry you feel this way, but it must have just been a busy day.
Better response: Thank you for your feedback. I’m forwarding this along to management so we can work on resolving this issue.
Best response: Thank you for your feedback. We apologize for any inconvenience. We’re scheduling a management meeting to address how we can reduce wait times in the future.
In the final example, the business builds trust with the customer by not only apologizing for the inconvenience but actively working to resolve the issue. And it goes without saying that if multiple customers are regularly complaining about the same thing, you need to address it.
Justin Bumann is theManaging Partner at Metrics Media Group, LLC